‘Five a Week’ in Blackbox Manifold + review

My long-ish poem, ‘Five a Week’, is out in full in the latest Blackbox Manifold, No. 21 (Winter 2018). As ever, there’s a really good selection of work in the issue; especially to my taste is Katy Lewis Hood’s ‘smoke screen   fragments’, which makes lyrical use of coordinates and trig-point measurements, as ways of naming and knowing landscape: “call it brae or rig / (call it NX413 888)”.



Jonathan Catherall reviewed a selection of the writing in the latest issue (‘Treasure in the Blackbox‘), including ‘Five a Week’ along with work by Kimberly Campanello, Calum Hazell, Catherine Vidler, Tessa Bering and Katherine Sowerby, in his magazine Tentacular. This what Jonathan said about ‘Five a Week’:

Daniel Eltringham, whose work I’m more familiar with, shares with Campanello that quiet but affecting subtlety – it’s a feature of his reading style too, most recently at Xing the Line in December 2018 (which included a performance of this poem). His focus is ecological, in its widest sense, an attempt to engage with what creatures we are or have to be now in the face of the Anthrobscene. ‘Five a Week’ deserves longer treatment than I’ll be able to give it here, wrestling as it does with these massive questions.

What struck me on first hearing, and still strikes me, is the creation of a very conversational and situated idiom. It plays cleverly against the anti-egoic nostrums of a more inflexible experimentalism by placing the reflective individual in a context of chats with friends, rendered very affectionately, creating a decentring which is mundane in the very best sense. There’s a recognition that these won’t of themselves solve the world’s problems, but it seems a political move to the idea of the local and collective, of a practical polyphony. There are astute, wry, joyful moments but there is fight, too, here beginning with an echo of Prynne’s ‘The Numbers’:

Yet the problem pertains
to shrink the footprint down
means absolutely to be grounded,

deny lift-off to shrink the world
down & I don’t / produced by the ideology
of connection – no borders, that’s obvious –
but can we self-impose some stay home,
sit tight, illimit.

To ‘sit tight’ as a means of ‘illimit’ resonates more broadly than in its environmental aspect – to the sense of finding meaning but also resistance in the smallest thing or action, in being collectively ‘tight’ with those around one, in this very generous poem.

Thanks Jonathan! It’s really an alarmingly exact reading. I am nearly entirely unused to being reviewed but it feels like the best kindness, and tells me what I wanted to do and now I see this is quite right, that phrase ‘practical polyphony’ especially. So that’s what it was about!

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